In a classic case of déjà vu all over again, Gainesville found itself trailing by a run with runners on base in the final out of the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings Saturday afternoon, but couldn’t muster a breakthrough hit.
Despite plating the game-tying runner on 3rd base in each inning, the Red Elephants were unable to close the deal late and took their first loss of the season in a 4-3 decision against Jefferson at Ivey-Watson Field.
“We just couldn’t get a hit to save our lives,” said Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp. “We helped (Jefferson) out a bit. You’ve got to get your men in scoring position, but we didn’t finish.”
The Red Elephants (3-1) stranded 13 base-runners, including 10 in scoring position, along with a bases-loaded opportunity in the second inning where Gainesville had picked up an early 1-0 lead.
Freshman Lane Watkins smacked the go-ahead RBI double to score Devin Humphries as Jefferson’s two-run sixth inning was enough to secure the road victory. Junior closer Zack Boobas secured the save by striking out Jonathan Gettys and forcing out Banks Griffith with two runners on in the sixth, then doing the same to Gainesville’s Jack Langford and Fedrick Cardona in the seventh.
Jefferson coach Tommy Knight said Boobas can present a new challenge for batters used to traditional pitchers.
“He can’t throw it just straight,” said Knight. “He throws it three different speeds in four different directions. After a traditional pitcher, it’s panic on (the batter’s) part.”
Watkins later scored the winning run when he dashed home from second base following a routine groundout. A Gainesville fielder tried to catch Watkins stealing third, but the throw went long, allowing the freshman to break out.
Gainesville starter Sam Carpenter (four innings pitched, four strikeouts) surrendered a 2-out, 2-RBI double from junior Kasen Rainey as Jefferson earned a 2-1 lead in the third.
Jefferson’s Asher Standridge pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, two walks, and striking out four batters.
Gainesville reliever A.J. Smallwood later gave up three hits as Jefferson broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning.
Jefferson’s Brooks Beddow, who pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief, threw a wild pitch that allowed Cardona to score from third base as Gainesville cut the lead to 4-3 with one out in the sixth inning, but the Red Elephants offense was unable to make any more of an impact.
“(Carpenter) didn’t have the stuff that we know he can have, but when you can have him throw those innings and only give up one earned run, that’s fine. We’ve got to quit leaving men on base, and we’ve got to get some of the flyballs we didn’t. A team like us, we’re going to battle you. Luckily, now we’re 0-0, starting region.”
Gainesville totaled six hits from six different batters, while Jefferson had seven total hits. Griffith, a Gainesville sophomore, reached base thanks to two Jefferson errors on consecutive at-bats.
Jefferson and Gainesville competed in their respective state championship title games last spring, with both coming away as runners-up.
“Any time you beat Gainesville, that’s a very good win,” said Knight. “These are a bunch of kids who scrap and fight and compete when it gets tough.”
The Red Elephants will next play at Apalachee 5:55 p.m. Wednesday, while the Dragons will host White County at 5:55 p.m. Tuesday.